Businesswoman running on treadmill

It’s no secret that it’s recommended sick workers stay home until they get better, yet many Americans show up to their job anyway in an effort to “tough it out.” This decision, known as presenteeism, puts other employees in the crosshairs of germs — a pretty big target, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that found the fluid released by a sneeze can travel up to 8 meters. That’s the length of several desks.

When employers do call in sick, companies suffer, too. In fact, absent employees and those who show up to work while sick combine to cost the U.S. economy nearly $230 billion each year due to lost productivity.

Since the cold and flu always manage to pop-up this time of year, and many companies suffer as a result, it’s important that workers and cleaners heed advice on how to stay healthy while in the office.

Here are some tips:

1.    Talk to cleaning staff: While great communication between office managers and cleaning staff should occur throughout the year, special chats prior to and during flu season can do a lot to put workers in the best position to keep offices safe. Topics of discussion should include how often high-touch surfaces should be disinfected.

2.    Know what carries germs: Speaking of high-touch surfaces — cleaners and building occupants alike need to get to know what they are. Generally speaking, the most germ-covered items in the office are those that come in contact with hands. This of course includes door handles, keyboards and phone receivers, but sink taps, faucets, refrigerator handles and the buttons on vending machines and microwaves, get in plenty of contact with fingers, too.

3.    Improve hand washing: Too often do people skip out on washing their hands, but even those that wash their hands often don’t do it for long enough. The average person washes his or her hands for 10 seconds, which is only long enough to dispose of 90 percent of germs, according to Sani Marc Group. This is a mistake, as that remaining 10 percent of bacteria can double in less than 20 minutes. In 80 minutes the bacteria grows to the number is was at prior to the hand washing.